Best and Worst of CBeebies 2013

My most popular blog post of all time (by a very long shot!) has been List: The Best and Worst of CBeebies, a post that at the time I was worried about writing in case it made me look like a terrible mother who just plonks her kiddo in front of the telly all day whilst I run a crack den.  I can promise that this still isn't the case!

At the moment we have a '2 or 3 programmes per day' rule, and these lusciously tempting morsels of evil TV are dished out when I'm cooking dinner or washing up.  Fortunately it seems you other parents understand, and you too are interested in what other families rate and hate on the telly.  

I've only covered CBeebies as it's the only channel we watch - it seemed to have the most educational programmes and no adverts so we were sold.  If there are any programmes on other channels you and your small people like though, let me know in the comments!

Obviously viewing schedules change, new programmes are commissioned and Eric's taste has changed as he's got older, so there are a whole host of new programmes that we love and hate, as well as some old favourites.  So without further ado, my best and worst of CBeebies for 2013 is...

The Amazing:

Peter Rabbit
This is Eric's favourite programme at the moment (and mine!) It's based on the Beatrix Potter stories but with a modern twist.  The animations aren't completely true to the original illustrations but the stories are very familiar.  I love that it's outdoorsy, features animals, is based on classic literature and shows lots of adventuring and the young animal characters getting themselves out of scrapes.  I also like that there is a strong, intelligent, female character, Lily Bobtail, who often helps save the day (even if she does only wear pink). 

Charlie and Lola
I still absolutely, completely love Charlie and Lola.  We have all the episodes taped on our Sky+ so we always have the one we want to watch available.  How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  I love the sibling dynamic, it almost makes me want a brother or sister for Eric.  Ooh imagine if we had a girl, Eric could be like Charlie and she might be like Lola.  This is the first time I've had this thought.... I also love the mid-century modern decor of their flat.  I love that they have a flat rather than a house.  I love the animations.  I love the flights of fancy of their imagination. I love that the episodes are based around real life, every day things, like having a birthday party (watching that episode made Eric so excited about his party), growing a plant, getting a hair cut, being ill or your mouse dying.  I love that Lola is a hilarious, creative, feisty heroine that hasn't been 'pinkified'.  Ahh I just love it.  Unfortunately Eric chooses to watch more new programmes these days, but I know he'll be back.  It's a classic.

The Good:

The Ugly Duckling
At Easter CBeebies broadcast a ballet version of The Ugly Duckling, with the Northern Ballet, and it was absolutely brilliant.  The story was so easy to follow, really fun, and it was wonderful to be able to show Eric an introduction to something cultural like ballet (which I love).  Mr Bloom and some 'tiddlers' (AKA children) kept popping up to analyse the action, which I think was a bit patronising and unnecessary as it really was easy to understand what was going on, and this interrupted the flow a bit, but it could have been worse!  The ballet introduced lots of different animals so there was learning to be had! "What animal do you think that might be? Where does it live? What does it eat? Can you hop like a frog?"etc.  The sets were good and the  costumes were amazing too.  I'd love to see more productions like this on CBeebies.

3rd and Bird
We still love 3rd and Bird.  It's outdoorsy, there are great songs and dances, it teaches social responsibility within your community and it is soooooo cute!

Eric LOVES Swashbuckle.  It's quite a new programme, at the time of writing I think it's only been on for two weeks.  Swashbuckle is a bit like Fun House, Crystal Maze and Get Your Own Back, with a pirate theme.  Teams of children compete in physical, piratical tasks to win jewels.  I'm not going to say it's educational, I think I only like it for the nostalgic element and I'd prefer to be doing it than watching it.  I don't think Eric learns anything from it, but it's entertaining and he finds it funny too.  I do like that there is diversity in race and age of the adult characters, and that the two main characters are strong women. 

The Adventures of Abney and Teal
We don't watch this often anymore but I like the folk-y feel of this programme.  The characters are sweet, it's outdoors (notice a theme here?!) and the music is good.  I also like that their favourite food is porridge (teaching healthy habits!) It's quite surreal but I see that as a sketch on children's imagination while playing in a park.  It always reminds me of my friend Kate!

I Can Cook
We still love I Can Cook! Eric is old enough to actually understand the programme now, and enjoys cooking with me (as long as it's baking cakes).  We get ideas from I Can Cook now, whereas before we used to watch it to learn about food and cooking.  We 'vegan-ise' the recipes, but often they make them vegetarian or talk about substituting ingredients anyway which is brilliant.  I like that they often cook with vegetables on the show, and I love Eric getting to see that, I live in hope that one day he will eat a vegetable that's not a pea or baked bean.  I love Katie, the presenter, she's so cheerful, friendly and fun.

Green Balloon Club
This programme is great as it's got a strong environmental and educational element.  It focusses on learning about nature, wildlife and the environment, and it really does encourage children to get outside.  It encourages nature-spotting too (viewers can earn a green star if they find the 'spot of the week' which the parent can print out from the CBeebies website.)  Children are also introduced to scrapbooking, researching and making reports.  The only thing I don't like is 'Jelly', the really annoying puppet!

Tinga Tinga Tales
We're enjoying Tinga Tinga Tales at the moment as they are set in Africa, which is where Alex is working.  Eric likes to see the animals, and I think it's helping him picture what it might be like where Alex is, and to feel closer to him.  The stories are really involving.  I love that the episodes are based on African creation stories, and that the animation was made in Kenya, based on Tingatinga art from Tanzania, with East african music, so it's great for introducing a different culture to children. 

Little Human Planet
I love this programme as it introduces what life is like for children in different places all around the globe.  Even as an adult I find it fascinating and interesting.  

The Ok:

Postman Pat / Postman Pat SDS
Postman Pat's a bit of a classic isn't it! I like the rural village setting and it's nostalgic watching it.  Some of the child characters are REALLY annoying (Sarah Gilbertson, anyone?!).  It's a bit up and down in its portrayal of gender roles which is a shame.  Overall it's quite gentle and I don't mind Eric watching it, and you can use it to lead onto post office role play!

Timmy Time
Animals! Aardman! I like it! It helps introduce little ones to the idea of pre-school (if they'll be going) too.

Really cute and I love the noises they make but I don't always like the way the adults treat the children - poor Pingu!

If you have a childish, silly sense of humour you'll love it! It always makes me chuckle.

Show Me Show Me
We don't watch this one anymore but I do think it's quite good.  Each episode has a couple of subjects, e.g. frogs and clouds, then the presenters centre lots of activities around the topic, like watch a video of frogs, make a pond out of things in the playroom, do some frog songs, pretend to be frogs etc. so when we used to watch it I found it did inspire play ideas for us to try at home.

Let's Play
We occasionally watch Let's Play, and I think it's good for inspiring different role plays, however I think watching others role play means Eric copies rather than uses his imagination to create the scenario himself.  I like that the female presenter will often dress up as a man though!

Nina and the Neurons
I want to like Nina and the Neurons, as I think it's great that there's a science and engineering programme for little ones, and even more so as it has a female presenter and women are under-represented in science/engineering jobs.  However, in reality I find it really annoying (especially the animations!)

Magic Hands
Magic hands is quite a new programme, and each episode features a different popular poem brought to life through animation and British Sign Language.  The presenters are all deaf which is great as I like programmes that show a wide range of people to help Eric understand and celebrate diversity.  I like the idea but I think Eric's a bit too old for it and it doesn't keep his attention.  

Mister Maker
Kind of like a modern Art Attack.  It's good but I'd prefer just do crafts with Eric, rather than watch other people do crafts! It's good if you want to 'make along' with Mister Maker though, which would make watching the programme more interactive and social too.

The Bad:

I like the idea of a phonics programme but it is just SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO annoying! I can't stand it! Eric doesn't seem to understand what's going on either.

Mike The Knight
Really sexist.  No learning happening.  Just a rubbish cartoon.

The Downright Ugly:

WHY IS THIS STILL ON TV? Ugh I just hate it.  It's awful.  And there's no learning to be had either these days as the footage in the bit where the Teletubby's tummy turns into a TV screen to teach children about something like a cornflakes factory is now SO OLD that it's outdated.  It's just rubbish!

Everything's Rosie
Horrible, sexist, rubbish animation.  I really hate it.

The Rhyme Rocket
The idea of a programme to teach rhyme is, I guess, ok, but this particular programme is horrible.  So patronising and annoying and the characters are the worst! I'd rather just read Eric a Julia Donaldson or Dr Seuss book to teach him about rhyme!

In The Night Garden
I still hate In The Night Garden.  It's just character-driven rubbish with no story or educational value, teaches children silly, nonsense words and it's not even relaxing or enjoyable to watch! I apologise if you do like this one, I know it's very popular, but I really hate it!

Get Squiggling
Horrible, annoying character.  Bad drawings.  Sexist stories.  I'd rather just do drawing with Eric.

Bits and Bobs
Annoying characters

Big and Small
Annoying characters!

I like the music element but REALLY ANNOYING CHARACTERS!

Why is this still on? WHY?! I do like PC Plum's song though, that bit is awesome.

The Ones That Eric Likes But I Hate So I Try To Stop Him Watching Them By Pretending They're Not On Today:

Tree Fu Tom
Character-driven, no educational value, I'd rather get Eric moving actively through other means than putting him in front of the telly to do it...

Uuuuugggggghhhhhh! And sexist too.

Q Pootle 5
A new one.  Character-driven.  No learning to be had here.

Tommy Zoom
I hate Tommy Zoom, I hate the animations, the environmental element is stupid (they're silly environmental problems not real ones) and the moral of the story is always something like "you should wash your hands before eating."  The only good thing about it is that Eric saw the dog during the live action part of the show and said "I used to be that dog", which I thought was brilliant.

Has a slight environmental bent and some teaching about underwater animals, but generally is just character-driven, and I don't think I've ever heard the female characters even speak.

So that's my list for this year! I hope I haven't insulted your favourites, obviously this is just based on my opinion and no offense is intended, everyone likes different things and I respect difference! What are your favourite CBeebies programmes? Do you like any that we like? Are there any good or awful ones I haven't mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

I did write in the last List: The Best and Worst of CBeebies, which was posted in 2011, that "I think a small amount of television is ok for babies".  Having read lots of research since then I don't actually feel the same any more, and I believe the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation of 'no TV before they're 2' is a really sound one.  I'd definitely recommend reading this BBC article, I wish I had read more studies and articles when Eric was younger and held off TV time until he was a bit older.  We used to let him watch an hour a day and have it on in the background (why?!) and having read the research I do worry about the long term effects.  But parenting is a learning process and we do our best! 


  1. Tree Foo Tom has been used as a learning tool to engage children on the autistic spectrum who may otherwise have limited motivation skills so can't dismiss it entirely ..

    1. Ah ok, that's really positive! I don't have much experience with children on the spectrum and their needs, so can only comment from our experience (which is that Eric used to do the moves but now just sits there, mouth hanging open!) I'm glad it works for some children and parents though. I have been overly harsh on some programmes as I find some aspects just so annoying that I can't stand to watch them with him!

  2. Loving your work Flis - entertaining, interesting, thought provoking and well written. I was gonna give you an A* then saw the Alphablocks comment!

    Our kids absolutely adore the show (they are 2 and 4). Along with Numberjacks, it's almost singlehandedly got them interested in words and numbers in between their creative play, arty efforts and physical excesses outside - and helped my son in particular to count, recognise, use and pretty much write all the letters in the alphabet and numbers up to 100.

    Each to their own of course, but I would be tempted to say Alphablocks is truly award-winning worthy stuff. Engaging, entertaining and massively educational - using some great visual and narrative ideas to introduce phonics, blending and communication to kids.

    Just my 10p worth - and I'll let you off 1 blip in my opinion! Keep up the great work on the blog.. time I subscribed rather than lurked.

    Steve and Family.

    1. Thanks Steve!
      Ah maybe I should move it up a category! I do think it's a great concept, I just find the characters/animation so annoying...but then it's not really aimed at me :)
      I'm glad to hear Alphablocks and Numberjacks have got your kiddos into letters/numbers, it's great to get a positive take on it. I love hearing from other parents with differing opinions, it's good to be able to understand and respect differences!

  3. How can you like "Show me Show me?" The songs are just GOD AWFUL BAD. Poi's singing is so darn FLAT its enough to have me banging my head against a wall! If they had another presenter along with Chris, it MIGHT go from GOD AWFUL BAD to just plain GOD AWFUL!!